Aneurysm Chapter 3

Where Aneurysms Happen

Aneurysms can occur in both veins and arteries, but they are much more common in arteries. The abdominal and thoracic (chest) aortas are the most frequent locations for arterial aneurysms.

Aortic Aneurysm

The aorta is the biggest blood vessel in your body and supplies blood to the arteries of all your limbs and organs, except your lungs. It's normally about the width of a garden hose, and runs directly out of your heart's left ventricle and down through the center of your body into your abdomen. There it branches into the two common iliac arteries.

The aorta is the most common place for aneurysms to occur. Because your aorta carries so much of the body's blood, a ruptured aortic aneurysm frequently proves fatal. Aneurysms can occur anywhere along the aorta, but 75-90% of them take place in the abdominal section. Abdominal aneurysms are four times more common in men than in women. Ruptured aortic aneurysms are the ninth leading killer of American men over the age of 55.

Aortic aneurysms are often without symptoms and so can be difficult to detect. An enlarged aortic aneurysm may produce a pulsing sensation near the navel, as well as tenderness or pain in the abdomen, chest, or back. Their growth is unpredictable: some may grow slowly, less than half an inch a year, and never rupture, but others may expand quickly, increasing the danger of rupture. If the aortic aneurysm is small, 1.5 inches (4 cm) or less, the doctor may advise a wait-and-see approach. Fast-growing or large aortic aneurysms, that is, bigger than 2.2 inches (5.5 cm), probably require surgery.

Popliteal Aneurysm

Popliteal aneurysms occur in back of the knee and account for about 70-85% of all peripheral aneurysms (aneurysms that don't occur in the aorta). They are usually fusiform (spindle shaped). More than 95% of peripheral arterial aneurysms occur in men.

Popliteal aneurysms seldom rupture, but they may create blood clots that block blood flow to the lower leg and feet, or the blood clots may break off and travel downward. This can result in blocked blood flow in the lower limbs and ischemia (tissue death), often creating the need for amputation. The size of a popliteal aneurysm plays less of role in a doctor's decision on how to manage it than in other types of aneurysm, because clotting, not rupture, is the main danger. Symptomatic popliteal aneurysms require repair no matter what their size.

More on this topic

What is an Aneurysm? (VIDEO)

Aneurysms Explained

Where Aneurysms Happen

Head & Neck Aneurysms

Risk Factors

Symptoms, Tests, and Diagnosis

Aneurysm Complications

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Surgery

Cerebral Aneurysm Surgery


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